McDonald's Wants to Start Your Day With a Free Cup of Coffee

Small McDonald's cup of Coffee with  MCdonald's food bag. USA
Michael Neelon(misc)/Alamy
If you want to skip paying for your money cup of coffee, the waiting is over. Starting today (Sept. 16), head over to McDonald's (MCD) and get a cup of Joe on the house through Sept. 29.

It's the kind of publicity stunt that can pay for consumers, who can ask for a free small coffee at the fast food giant and actually get one... at participating restaurants only, of course.

McDonald's announced earlier this year that it was going to put more effort into growing its coffee business. Even though its brand is hardly built on coffee, the chain has become the top seller of coffee in the country. But there's stiff competition out there, with the likes of Starbucks (SBUX) and Dunkin' Donuts (DNKN) enjoying fierce brand loyalty -- and far stronger associations with java.

But free is free, and the idea is to see if any of those who usually head to the other places for their morning Joe could be convinced to give McDonald's brew a try. Even when it's not free, coffee at McDonald's is often a much better deal than its competitors' cups. Many McDonald's outlets offer any size coffee for $1. Those who drink large coffees can expect to pay twice that at Dunkin' Donuts and even more at Starbucks.

But if you value caffeine in your coffee, particularly to get you going in the morning, be aware that McDonald's coffee typically doesn't pack the punch of what Starbucks, Panera Bread Co. (PNRA) and Dunkin' are offering. Starbucks coffee has been measured as having more than twice the caffeine of McDonald's coffee, while most of the others were at least 20 percent more potent.

Of course, not everyone requires the same amount of jolt. And free is free, even if it's only for two weeks.

Freebies First, In Supermarkets Later

McDonald's tried to amp up its coffee game in 2009, when is launched its McCafe concept. Now, the company is saying it expects to get into the grocery coffee wars, too, with its branded bagged coffee and single-serve K-cups arriving in stores early next year.

This is the second time McDonald's has used a "Free Coffee Event" giveaway to promote its brew. In March, McDonald's said it gave away "millions" of cups of coffee. The chain increasingly is offering a variety of coffee drinks to gain a greater foothold in the coffee market.

"We know our guests are busy, especially during the morning, and a free cup of coffee goes a long way in helping get their days started," McDonald's Senior Vice President Greg Watson said in a statement.
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